Fresno can be model for climate-change projects

Vector illustration of Fresno skyline. (YurkalMMortal, via Shutterstock)

With the recent landmark victories in our state climate policy, California has a unique opportunity to meet our ambitious climate goals with equity at the center. Over the years, Gov. Brown and our legislators have deepened their commitment to investing resources in our state’s most underserved communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate change.

Right now, the City of Fresno, where I live, where I grew up and where I work, has the opportunity to model what this looks like for the rest of the state by working with residents to make sure the new investments reach the most impacted neighborhoods.

Fresno, with the top 3 most disadvantaged census tracts in the entire state of California is primed to take advantage of this funding.

For years, community leaders in Fresno have been developing a road map to create climate resilient neighborhoods, but their vision has been largely ignored.  West Fresno has long been a dumping ground for industrial uses, other unwanted land uses and little to no investment. The area is cut off by the rest of the region by two major freeways yet lacks safe roads and access to transit.

Finally, thanks to Assemblymembers Joaquin Arambula and Autumn Burke, AB 2722 has created the new Transformative Climate Communities Program which allocates $140 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund toward large-scale community-driven climate projects that have public health, social, environmental and economic benefits in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Fresno, with the top 3 most disadvantaged census tracts in the entire state of California is primed to take advantage of this funding. These top 3 most disadvantaged census tracts are, in fact, all located in West Fresno.

Currently, the question of where the City of Fresno will direct these investments are at the crux of Fresno’s revitalization efforts, however, a more critical question is: Will the communities most impacted by climate change receive the benefits directed to them?

The entire state is looking at Fresno to model how to lay the groundwork for transformative, community-driven climate projects that address the needs of low-income communities and communities of color.

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability has been working in partnership with Fresno Building Healthy Communities and other community-based organizations to ensure that new state investments help community leaders take lead in this transition towards the sustainable, resilient and just future we all need.

We want to see better integration of our downtown and adjacent neighborhoods where affordable housing, equitable transit, renewable energy, walkability infrastructure, and increased park spaces help build the healthy neighborhoods we all need.

In order to make this vision a reality, the City of Fresno must put the community vision at the forefront of the decision of where to direct these new climate investments. Coming together as one community working in collaboration with our city officials, public agencies, and other stakeholders, is the only way we can see the transformative change and ensure these new community-driven projects come to fruition.

We need to ensure community residents have a seat at the table to inform the process to be the model for climate resilience and climate justice for the state and the nation.

Ed’s Note: Grecia Elenes is Policy Advocate at the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

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